Spirit of Giving

IWK is a special place

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Mary Theresa is the Personal and Planned Gifts Officer at the IWK Health Centre Foundation.

As the parent of a chronically ill daughter, I want to share the story of my family’s miracle at the IWK Health Centre.

Everyone can imagine how difficult it is for parents to see their child in any degree of pain and how overwhelming it can be to know that they face major surgery or invasive testing. I can tell you from personal experience, it is the most critical and crushing time.

My daughter, Jody Lynn, was born March 20, 1982 in Sydney, N.S., by the time she was 18 months old she had a host of medical problems and always seemed to be in pain. It was very upsetting, but was just the beginning of a long process.

She was diagnosed at the age of 8 with inflammatory bowel disease, known as Crohn’s disease. The cause is not known, and there is no cure yet, and the symptoms can be excruciating – especially during a flare-up – including pain, diarrhea, bleeding, anemia and weight loss.  Jody would spend a lot of time over the next 10 years of her life being an inpatient at the IWK undergoing six major surgeries and countless procedures and tests.

We hear about miracles from Telethon and Radiothon hosts who tell us a story in a way that touches and articulates to everyone what a special place the IWK is.

What you don’t always see is how amazingly caregivers treat not only the patient, but also how they strive to make sure the family’s knowledge of an illness and lifestyle is part of the overall healing process.

Daughter Jody and grandson Cameron in 2009

At the IWK, caregivers don’t tell you how you feel – you tell them how you feel.  They are never condescending and constantly compassionate, taking care of the whole family as a unit that is essential to a child’s well being.  They also don’t just rely on drugs and treatment, they treat the patient’s life and educate families on how illness can be a part of it and not something that stops you from living. This knowledge and the inclusion of the family became part of our healing process.

Jody adopted the mantra of her favourite doctor, Micheline Ste. Marie: ‘It is my body; I know when something is wrong. Until you can prove otherwise, then it is.’ I have come to see that every doctor at the IWK lives by this motto.

Complications from Crohn’s, her inability to absorb nutrition, and the demands of pregnancy sent Jody back to the IWK Health Centre when she was 20, where she stayed for seven months. At one point, she was down to 86 pounds and was severely anemic. She was critical, but determined to carry her child to term, no matter the cost.

Expecting a grandchild should be a happy time, but it was mixed with concern for Jody. However, we never felt alone in this journey, as the doctors, nurses, staff – and even cleaning personnel — did everything they could to make Jody feel comfortable.

Cameron was born healthy in 2003, and every day I look at my grandson and know that it is a miracle that he is even with us. I credit Jody’s determination and the dedication of all staff and volunteers at the IWK who provided such excellent care to her and to our entire family.

It had always been my desire to want to do more for the IWK other than being a volunteer and a donor so when Jody became ill again in 2004 with complications from her Crohn’s, I moved to Halifax to help look after my grandson and applied for a position in the IWK Foundation.  I am honoured to work with the Foundation to help secure estate gifts.

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